My school just went through the long and painful, yet exiting, procedure of accreditation.
I was surprised to hear that, in their self study, students complained about having to master too many different technology tools on top of learning content.
I can understand what they mean…
Each teacher has his/her own platform, a web site, or a wiki, a blog, Netvibes, Edmodo (this is an open list) where students are expected to find sources and publish their homework.
They have to search, evaluate and cite information from a variety of sources (web, books, movies, audio files, primary sources, lab experiment…).
They need to be able to create powerpoint presentations, movies, google documents, podcasts, blog posts, spreadsheet (this is, again, an open list ).
I this too much?
When and why do we,teachers, decide to use a specific tool in our class?
How do we teach it and how do we get assistance from ICT staff?
In most schools, technology is still taught as a specific discipline with its own curriculum that includes the “basics” (Word, Powerpoints, Excel, I movie etc..).
Is it the right thing to do when the number of educational tools is exploding?
What and how should technology be taught today?
The International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) developed the ISTE.Nets, “standards for learning, leading and teaching in the digital age.“ It is a good tool to create benchmarks, curriculum and assessment tools, but it does not take in consideration how children are learning and progressing and therefore how we should teach them.
AASL standards from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) focus on lifelong learning habits. This seems logical to me because librarians work with the whole school community outside the logic of benchmarks and grades.
In these standards, learning is regarded as a process, where children inquire and gain knowledge, draw conclusions, share knowledge and pursue aesthetic growth. “Dispositions in Action” such as “display curiosity”, “display initiative” or “demonstrate confidence” are standards because learning is a process that never ends. Technology is tacitly embed in student’s life and activities, as much as books, face to face interactions and arts.
Route 21 Standards, created by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, offers a comprehensive list of tools, standards, professional development programs, assessments and curriculum and instructions to implement 21 Century Skills in schools. The idea is to embed technology in subjects taught rather than teaching it as a separate subjects.
These standards give me an idea about what we should aim for, but it doesn’t give me an answer to my questions.
David Warlick in his blog post “What Difference Might One “s” Makes” suggests that:
“students simply learn to apply computers to solve problems or accomplish goals. It really doesn’t matter if they are covering all of the tools, or even if each student is mastering all of the same tools. Students would simply learn how computers can help them do interesting things, and then gain the skills and confidence required to teach themselves, with the guidance of their teachers, the applications to make it happen.”
I agree with him, children learn technology better when working on a project, but I still think that we need a technology curriculum in order to give all students the same chance of acquiring basic knowledge, regardless of the teacher they have and the projects they are involved into. It all depends on what we are putting in this curriculum and how we connect it to their work in various subjects at school and to their life.
The reason why I am saying that is that, being educated before the computer and internet age, I had to spend countless hours trying to figure out how softwares work, and I can see how comfortable teens are using World Window as well as all the “derivatives” such as I.life, because they got basic knowledges in class. Of course, a lot of softwares are going to vanish soon or later and new ones tend to be more intuitive, but the way there are built follows a pattern. We can’t predict the future, but we can teach for today needs the best we can.“The Ultimate Effective Classroom has: Effective, passionate teachers who believe that ALL kids can achieve and who have the Desire to Achieve and the Tools to do so: books, confidence – belief, problem solving skills, food for energy, supportive parents, effective teachers, critical thinking skills”
…add a bid of technology and you’ve got it perfect!